Efforts by law firms to stand out by defining their ‘values’ and purpose commonly fail through lack of management commitment, the former head of customer service at iconic department store chain John Lewis told the conference. 

Andrew McMillan (pictured), now an independent consultant, believes that ideally a law firm leader will spend up to half of their time on tasks

such as looking after the interests of staff and checking clients are properly welcomed at the firm – all the while modelling the behaviour and values expected of fee-earners and staff.

He recognised that many LMS delegates had significant demands to meet from their own clients, but warned that ‘anything less’ than 20% of working time spent by leaders on this side of the firm’s activities ‘doesn’t work’. 

‘You’ve got to find time to model and lead,’ he urged.

McMillan, whose clients include professional services firms, quoted the Ritz Carlton mantra: staff and guests should feel ‘welcomed, wanted,  remembered, cared for’.

This poses a challenge for law firms, which should reassess the balance of traits and skills they look for when recruiting, he suggested. 

‘Hire for attitude,’ McMillan advised, alluding to his own experience of customer service: ‘You can’t teach someone to be nice. You can teach them to sell a computer.’

Recruitment energies should therefore focus on bringing people with the right ‘personality’ into the business. If any members of staff provide a poor cultural fit for the firm’s values then they should be removed from the firm within six weeks, he said.

This was vital for firms seeking to differentiate themselves, he stressed, adding: ‘Done with enough conviction, a “halo effect” transfers from your individuals to the brand.’

Conversely, if the ‘simple processes break down, trust evaporates’, he added.

Supporting solicitors: Law Management Section

The Law Society’s Law Management Section provides solicitors with support, advice and networking opportunities, and facilitates the sharing of best practice with peers.

The current Section Engagement Programme has been created in consultation with the Section Committee and will focus on key issues, including:

  • Practice management
  • Talent management
  • Financial management
  • Staffing models
  • IT
  • Client focus
  • Cyber security

These issues are addressed through a range of activities, including: webinars, magazines, regional forums, seminars, a conference, website, e-newsletters and a LinkedIn group.

Go to http://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/law-management/ for more details.